Bright and beautiful blue

Imagine blue jeans that never fade! The discovered of a new shade of blue by a grad student in 2009 has recently become commercially available. Prof Mas Subramanian noticed this observation as his grad student pulled out a brilliant blue powder form a lab furnace.

The new shade of blue, known as YInMn, was a result of exploring manganese oxides.

By the way, it’s name is a derivative of the components’ chemical symbols — yttrium (Y), indium (In), and manganese (Mn).

The pigment formed is due to an unusual crystal structure known as “trigonal-bipyramidal coordination” which allows it to absorb green and red and only reflects blue light. It was achieved by mixing these chemicals together at 2000°F (1093°C).

The amazing thing was that this was purely an accidental discovery whilst attempting to create new materials for electronics with magnetic properties from manganese! Mas Subramanian’s material chemistry lab actually focuses on creating novel electronic materials!

They’ve already sent samples of it to artists to use — a perfect mix of art and science!


  • Chemically inert aka extremely stable
  • Doesn’t fade
  • Heat resistant
  • Reflects infrared energy
  • Non-toxic — a big deal as Prussian blue (a cheaper blue pigment to ultraviolet marine) has toxic properties
  • Good for resistance again heat, light and weather.
  • Easily dispersible meaning it’s easy to add to things!

Possible applications (some of which are my wishes!):

  • Art restoration
  • Energy efficiency — keep buildings cooler, reduce air con costs
  • Commercial coatings, plastics and household paint this year
  • Ink
  • Cosmetics
  • Blue jeans that never fade!

By replacing manganese with other elements, Subramanian has produced durable new purples (zinc, titanium), greens (copper), oranges (iron) and yellows.

The blue-hued news is particularly amazing when you consider the fact that according to historical records people used to not be able to recognise the colour blue (check out this video). The world is looking a more beautifully-coloured.

Further reading:

Image credit: OSU/Madelaine Corbin — used the new shade of blue to paint a picture of the Oregon State University Memorial Union building.

Originally published on Australia’s Science Channel: